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  1. The study paints a dismal picture. (Well, except for gas producers and pipeline operators.) They stand to make a killing – a real killing.

  2. Perhaps this will provide you with insight as to why there is a push on NG. It is only cheap (now) because they can’t sell it. The doubling in price of NG in the 90’s was from all of the utilities adding NG peaking turbines when NG was “cheap and will stay cheap.” Even the utility I worked for got sucked in.
    PSE&G in NJ often uses coal gasification to run their gas turbines – they need to just to maintain gas pressure on cold winter nights.

  3. I think the “alternative fuel” option for gas turbines can be satisfied by feeding the pipleline system “Syngas” made from coal.
    Gas-from-coal was a big industry circa 1900 or so. I know there was a big coal gas plant in Manchester, NH, my hometown, to feed the needs of a large textile factory and supporting city. People are still arguing in Ithaca, NY about the fate of the old coal-gas plant: there has been a major remediation effort to remove coal tar residue from the soil around the old building, which is across the street from an elementary school and a swimming pool. There’s an outbuilding that was part of the facility that now belongs to the school district. The school district wants the building destroyed so that the liability it represents is eliminated, but preservationists think the building has historic value.
    Syngas made a comeback in the 1970s, when there was a lot of concern about energy and people were considering far-out ideas like Space-based Solar Power Satellites. Syngas is definitely possible today, but it would be (i) expensive and (ii) bad for the environment. Back in the 1970s, people were imagining large “coalplexes” in the mountain states that would ship synthetic gas and liquid fuels by pipeline to the rest of the country.
    A related technology that’s got a little more traction is the “integrated gasifier”, which is a front-end that can be attached to a gas turbine that pyrolyzes coal or biomass and feeds hot fuel gases into the turbine. This was researched in the 1970’s and is in many of the alternative energy books because it works better on biomass than coal. From what I gather, it’s a favorite for “clean coal” technology: there are even high-tech versions that take pure oxygen as input so there’s no nitrogen in the exhaust, so the carbon dioxide that comes out can be compressed and disposed of. I’m aware of a few recent small-scale installations of the technology, but my last literature scan showed the signs of “technology porn” here: cost numbers, for instance, haven’t been updated since 1970s research papers.
    The gasifiers are vertically oriented cylinders that are similar in size to the gas turbine, so I could certainly imagine ‘upgrading’ an existing turbine, but the two gas turbine installation I know intimately are in buildings that aren’t a square inch bigger than they have to be and are on lots with very small footprints; you’d also have to add in room for a good sized pile of coal and machinery to handle it — that’s the really amazing thing about petroleum fuels delivered by pipeline… you can move a lot of mass in without ever really noticing it; whenever I lift diesel tanks to fill my tractor, I think of how must of us forget that our cars consume their own weight in fuel every year.

  4. Rod, thanks heaps for your brief on the APPA study. It is really difficult to imagine a more wrong-headed US energy policy than promoting/forcing wholesale replacement of fossil fuel generation with fossil fuel generation.
    Instead of wasting the estimated $735 billiion, what do you think it would it cost to repower the 335 GWe of coal with mass-manufactured modular nuclear boilers? First, we don